Commando Joe: Lt. Joseph Fournier, Marine Raider
by Pat Lavarnway
Merriam Press World War II Biography
eBook - ISBN 9781716557415 - $4.99
Paperback - ISBN 9781716557590 - $14.00
Hardcover not available
When he joined the Marines in May 1939, Lt. Joseph A.L. Fournier would not be considered a particularly formidable man by today’s standards. Yet at five feet eleven inches and 161lbs, he was often described as a large, strong man, more likely due to the self-confidence and the internal strength he exhibited than his actual physical structure. His journey to the Marines mirrored that of many young men of the Depression years. Raised in a large French-Canadian family and a small town in western Maine, Adelard, as he was known by family members, was given the freedom to dream and explore. His adventurous nature bloomed when at seventeen he trekked solo from east to west coast and back. His formal education ended with his eighth-grade parochial school certificate but, his less formal education and personal growth continued with each new adventure.
Joe, at eighteen, joined the U.S. Army and was assigned to the Chemical Warfare Service in the Panama Canal Zone. The military experience was a time of physical change and an awareness of life beyond what he had known. His commitment with the Army satisfied, Joe sought an opportunity for more formal education through the National Youth Administration‘s Quoddy Head project. Both the time spent in the Army and with the NYA were successful but left him to desire more out of life.
Seeking to fill that desire, Joe was off to join the Marines, the one organization that might offer him the life he craved, one of adventure and travel. As an enlisted Marine on board the USS Lexington (CV-2), one of only two Navy aircraft carriers in existence at the time, he visited places he had dreamed to see. His two years of sea duty was once more used to advance his ambitions, he boarded the “Lady Lex” as a Private and left her two years later as a Sergeant.
The U.S. entry into World War II turned most lives upside down, Sgt. Fournier’s was no exception. Identified as an exceptional Marine by his superiors led to his connection with the famed British Commandos and a covert trip to Scotland.
World War II continued to dictate Sgt. Fournier with a field promotion and the Officer Candidate School. His abilities as a leader and trainer plus his connection to the elite Marine Raider Battalions delayed his joining fellow Marines in the Pacific.
First Lieutenant Fournier entered the fight against the Japanese when he joined the 1st Division, known as the “Old Breed”, in Australia July 1943. The 1st Division was in dire need of rehabilitation and training after the Guadalcanal campaign, Lt Fournier’s skills satisfied that need. By December, with less than 6 months assigned with the division, the lieutenant received a Letter of Commendation for the rescue of a Marine.
Prior to the December 26, 1944 invasion of occupied New Britain, Lt Fournier participated in a covert reconnaissance mission on Cape Gloucester. Using his expertise in amphibious landing techniques and leadership, led to another recognition when awarded the Bronze Star with Valor. After the invasion, on January 7, 1944, Lt Fournier sustained a gunshot wound and his first Purple Heart. His leadership and fighting spirit was acknowledged in May of 1944 with the command of his own company and the rank of Acting Captain.
As part of the 1st Marine Infantry Battalions, who were first to land on Peleliu in September 1944, Lt Fournier’s company fought valiantly on the infamous Bloody Nose Ridge. Acknowledged for his courageous actions and leadership, Lt Fournier received The Navy Cross.
186 6x9-inch pages, 28 photographs and illustrations
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